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what a weekend!

Last week I mentioned I was headed to Wake Up Weekend 2009 in Grand Rapids, MI, to represent not one sparrow and speak on "a simply Christian animal advocacy."  Some of you've asked how the weekend went, and said you were praying for me while I was out there.  I want to thank you all sincerely, and report that the entire event couldn't have gone any better or been more affirming.

I hope to post some video soon, but for now I'll pass along a summary of the weekend's events and representing organizations.  On Friday I gave an overview of what led to launching not one sparrow, on both a personal and faith-based level, and some of what I've been working on in terms of developing not one sparrow's outreach efforts.  It was an honor to be introduced by Matt Halteman, who graciously invited me out, and to share the stage with folks who have been active much longer on behalf of animals and accomplished much more than I have, but still welcomed me as a friend.

Friday's presenters included Nathan Runkle of Mercy for Animals, which advocates on behalf of farmed animals and cruelty-free eating (they have the best free vegetarian starter guide); Bee Friedlander of Animals & Society Institute, which focuses on engaging animal concerns in the academic, political and criminal arenas (they have some great resources as well); Adam Durand, freelance filmmaker and advocate (who directed the phenomenal Wegman's Cruelty (see previous post) and Fowl Play on the poultry industry); and Harold Brown of Farm Kind, which works to help farmers and consumers move towards a sustainable and compassionate food production.

Friday evening, Calvin Students for Compassionate Living sponsored a ranging vegan potluck, and then we watched the brand new documentaries Eating Mercifully by the Humane Society, a perfect resource for the Christian community, and the forthcoming Fowl Play, a collaboration between Adam Durand and Mercy for Animals which is up for a film festival award.

On Saturday we gathered for an impressive vegan brunch at a restuarant I wish could be reduplicated in every city, Brick Road Pizza; astounded isn't quite the word for the unbelievable vegan "chick'n wings" I tried!  My talk on a simply Christian animal advocacy followed, with some Q&A, and then Michelle Loyd-Paige of Calvin College and Nekeisha Alexis-Baker of Jesus Radicals spoke engagingly on veganism in the African American community and the connection between "speciesism, sexism, and racism."  The evening, and weekend, officially concluded with an amazing vegan chili cook-off officiated by the effervescent Adam Wolpa (my wife Cheryl contributed her delicious "white chick'n chili") and an animal-themed print sale.

I was beyond grateful for the feedback I received on my talks and tabling on behalf of not one sparrow, even the makeshift banner I put together!  The other presenters and organizers couldn't have been more affirming, and their encouragement was an unbelievable shot in the arm.  I also really enjoyed spending time with my gracious host, Lisa Cockrel, an old friend from Moody.  I felt God's grace more than anything throughout every part of the weekend, and I'll never forget that. 

Below is a slideshow with more pictures, many of them courtesy Matt Halteman (copyright).  And remember all the food you see is completely animal-product-free, and just as tasty as it looks!  (Wake Up Weekend is co-sponsored by a number of groups which advocate for complete vegetarianism, or veganism, including the Grand Rapids community groups G-Rad and extraVEGANza!)

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